Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/621

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AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATIONS.

It is this characteristic, and this alone, which gives them their greater value, and justifies the expenditure of the public funds to make them. Farmers have been experimenting since Adam was expelled from Eden, yet scarcely a meeting of farmers occurs where the most diverse opinions are not maintained on the most familiar subjects. Our experiment stations should improve on this state of things. It is a comparatively simple matter to make experiments—as simple as playing Hamlet's pipe—but to so experiment as to obtain results that will stand is quite another matter. Experimenting is an art, and requires an apprenticeship no less than music. Now, all real scientific training—cramming we do not consider—is a training in the art of experimenting, and hence the statement, that the first qualification for the director of an experiment station is scientific training, is equivalent to saying that he must have learned his trade.

In the second place, the director of an experiment station must know what experiments to make as well as how to make them. He must be familiar with the needs of agriculture on the one hand, in order not to waste time in making needless experiments; and he must know what other experimenters have done, that he may not needlessly repeat their work.

To sum up briefly, the director of an agricultural experiment station should be a trained scientist, who has made a special study of agricultural science, and who is reasonably familiar with agricultural practice. We have named these requirements in what we believe to be the order of their importance. A certain measure of all of them is indispensable, but deficiencies in the latter two may be more or less readily made up, while lack of the first is, in our view of the matter, fatal.

Many other points regarding the organization and management of experiment stations suggest themselves for consideration, but it is the purpose of this article simply to point out the general principles which should prevail in the founding of these stations, their organization, and the determination of their lines of work. In the decision of these questions public opinion is the most powerful factor, and if this paper shall contribute in any degree to the formation of liberal and enlightened views on a subject of growing importance, or even succeed in awakening more general interest in it, and directing inquiry toward it, its object will have been accomplished.